Tuesday, July 17, 2018

NEC Turbo Duo Repair

 About 20 years ago, I purchased a NEC Turbo Duo console from a now-closed store called "It's about games." I asked about Turbo Grafx stuff as at the time I think I still had a Turbo Express handheld system (It was later stolen along with my Splatterhouse and Bonk's Revenge Hu-Cards). An employee there mentioned he had a Turbo Duo still in the box with everything that came with it, and that he hated it and wanted 50$ for it. I instantly took him up on the deal.

 The system played well for years. I joined a group called R.I.G.G. (Retro ISO Gaming Guild) and learned the ways of ripping and burning CD games for the system. Eventually CD games that required a lot of loading such as Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective would hang/crash and I tossed a lot of those burned copies and put the system up for a few years.

 When I brought the system back out I could tell immediately there were audio issues. I could barely hear anything and what I heard was crackling. There were numerous posts on the Internet about this and it was quickly determined that I needed to order a cap kit because the surface mounted capacitors fail after a few years and to make it even better.. they leak acid all over the PCB which can ruin circuit traces. In my case, I was fairly lucky that there was not a lot of leakage but there definitely was some visible underneath nearly every original cap as I removed them. I had a bit of trial and error along the way because while I have quite a bit of soldering experience, I've never done any surface-mount soldering. Below are a few pointers I learned along the way, along with my list of capacitors replaced. Note how much larger the last couple of batches are! Once I had some practice and knew how to properly prep, things went much smoother and faster.

- Removing the old surface-mounted capacitors

 Some will probably disagree with how safe this is, but for me I never lifted a trace. I simply took needle-nose pliers and GENTLY rocked the capacitor back and forth and side-to side a few times each. Once it started feeling loose I would put the pliers down and use my thumb to gently rock the capacitor some more in a circular motion and it would just fall off. If some of the legs of the old capacitor are left on the solder pads, you can carefully cut them with wire-cutters though some people leave them as an additional bit of metal for new solder to stick to.

- Cleaning

 This is extremely important. You need to clean the pad and all around the area of the pad to ensure any residue left over is removed. I used q-tips and 93% rubbing alcohol. Clean each area repeatedly until there's nothing black or yellow left on the q-tip. If the pad is really dirty (won't get shiny) then you will need to use a fiberglass pen gently on the pad to basically "scrape" any hard stuff off, then hit it with q-tips and alcohol again. If your surfaces aren't completely clean, the solder WILL NOT stick to the pad! Also, there are two op amps near the audio sections of the PCB. They are black with 8 metal legs and have the code "4558" stamped on them. If you've had bad leakage you will have to get those off and clean underneath them. In my case I didn't see any signs of corrosion near them on top or underneath the board itself; so I soaked both pretty good in alcohol, wiped them off and only saw very light yellowing, then let them dry.

- Prepping

 You will need to bend each leg of the capacitor about 1/4 of an inch from the top outward, then trim the legs, essentially making little "feet" that will stand flush on the soldering pads. You can use the diagram and list here https://console5.com/wiki/Turbo_Duo to plan out which capacitors to replace and where they go. I also ordered my capacitor kit from console5, but these days you can probably get more high-quality capacitors. In my opinion I don't really care because I know what's in that kit is miles better than the old caps. I recommend making a little list of your own per each "batch" of capacitors you intend on replacing so you can check them off as you go.

 Pay VERY close attention to polarity! Out of the 39 capacitors I swapped, I discovered I had one backwards which is a first for me on any soldering job. Good thing I caught it before I turned it on too because that could have seriously messed something up! The stripe on the capacitor marks the negative side. Do not trust the + marks on the PCB completely as it gets confusing when there are a lot in a cluster. Always confirm uF. voltage, and polarity of your replacement by checking the diagram in the link above! While voltage isn't as important; the general rule is that higher voltage will work, but not the reverse. Also, uF must be EXACT. So say if you need 6v 22uf, you can safely use a 10v 22uf, but you can not use something lower than 6 volts.


- Soldering

 I used a soldering iron picked up from Radio Shack years back. Certainly nothing special. It is adjustable to 15 watt or 30 watt. You'll obviously want to use a small, thin tip on your iron as this stuff is tiny. I used 15 watt (and you'll probably want to as well) because I wanted to be extra careful not to burn anything up. At one time early on I briefly used 30 watt and things just didn't want to "stick" properly. I recommend you have both solder wick and a solder sucker for cleaning up any old solder or to clean up any you accidentally may drip on a resistor or whatever. The best method I found was basically applying a little drop on each pad then waiting for it to cool, then gently touch it with my finger to ensure it's properly bonded. Then I would take my prepared new capacitor in my left hand and heat the solder drop for about half a second as I sunk the leg into the drop then quickly pulled away to solder iron. Wait for it to cool, then give it one last little wiggle to ensure it's not going anywhere.

- Testing

 It's not a bad idea to do a test after each batch of capacitors just in case something weird happens latter it will help you narrow down what went wrong. Make sure the the black and white wires are still soldered to the metal place that covers the middle of the PCB. Again, check your polarity! Ensure nothing is backwards every time before powering on.

 Doing multiple tests actually helped me solve an audio issue that popped up after I thought I was done! The first batch I did included c604 and c610. Those op amps I mentioned earlier pass through these. My first test after that batch brought back my audio loud and clear.. but after the total job was done I eventually discovered I only had the left channel of sound when using my AV cable (stereo worked fine through headphone jack). I was scratching my head and then remembered I had to bend a couple of caps to expose a screw. Sure enough, it was c610 and c604 and one leg of c604 had come loose. Probably because I wasn't cleaning/prepping as well as I should have been on that first batch! I hit the leg with more solder, wiggled it to make sure it's tight, fire the console back up and shazam, both audio channels working.

- Capacitor list by batch

Batch 1
c604
c610
c884

Batch 2
c200
c201
c202
c101

Batch 3
c135
c149
c164
c133

Batch 4
c616
c612
c322
c961

Batch 5
c675
c674
c670
c671

Batch 6
c517
c523
c521
c519
c525
c512
c515
c159
c165
c110
c105

Batch 7
c614
c613
c323
c615
c653
c311
c526
c507
c311


Final Notes

 I found this project to be very time-consuming and honestly hope I never have to mess with surface-mounted capacitors again.. though that's probably inevitable. It took me nearly 2 years to get around to completing but that's mainly due to being busy with work and getting into other repairs that were more high-priority to me. However, I learned a bit along the way and the experience was very rewarding. Aside from the fact the first batch basically fixed my audio issue, with every batch afterwards I could see things like new colors popping up in Neutopia that I either forgot were there. Once complete, the audio is clear with no buzzing. The graphics are bright, crisp, and colorful. It almost feels like playing brand new system.

 I have not yet replaced the non-surface-mounted capacitors and they do not show signs of leakage yet. From what I've seen in arcade repairs, those could last a few more years so I'll just keep an eye on them for now and if something fails they'll be the first culprit. I also have not replaced the save game component but I have the part if save games start vanishing.

 I also have not addressed the CD-ROM yet. That will be next! As of now it just spins when trying to load an audio CD. First step will be trying to adjust the existing laser now that the capacitors have been replaced.






 You can find more pictures I posted along the way on my Twitter account https://twitter.com/Jizaboz







Saturday, May 12, 2018

Slowly but Surely

 Last year I had tried to get the DPRK interactive fiction game completed by Christmas. That didn't happen. Besides my job still chugging along at a pretty grueling pace, other things just pop up. Foundation work to my house, repairs and appliance replacing at the trailer I inherited near the coast; it's always something! This is the first year I didn't even take the time to play and rate the Spring Thing interactive fiction competition games. It honestly came and went before I even realized it.

 On the bright side, things are a little less stressful now and I haven't taken on any new time-consuming projects. A friend of mine is working on a new MMO type game and I've assisted here and there.. but now he's hit a wall with the networking of the Godot engine that can't be solved until there is a newer version of the engine it seems. I've made a couple of electronic tunes you can listen to here, but that isn't time consuming either. I only sit down to try to make music when I have an idea for a song or am in a certain mood, which is rare.

 Today I'm working on DPRK again and wanted to update this blog before I forgot about it again for a few months (heh-heh). Over the past year I'm probably averaging about 3-5 hours a month total of adding bits of code here and there, testing things, and adding new graphics. That isn't great but I suppose it's better than nothing. I've had to tell myself to basically not force myself to try to do things that will be too time consuming just for a gimmick or puzzle feature. The time came long ago where I just have to focus on the content itself as the game isn't meant to be very puzzle intensive anyway. Instead, it should be fairly easy cruising to get an ending, wonder if things could have ended differently, and then hopefully play the game again and try different things for different results.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

IfComp 2017 - 8 reviews

The Interactive Fiction Competition has many entries this year. Here are short reviews of those I've been able to play so far. You still have until November 15th to play and vote on games if you are interested.

*** A CASTLE OF THREAD ***
By Marshal Tenner Winter

 A lot of games that involve “ships” whether they be in the sea or outer space have always confused me a bit as far as map layout versus the area I’m picturing in my head. This was kind of the case for me in this game too, but not as bad as others. I’m not sure how difficult of a time I would have solving some of these puzzles without a walkthrough because some of them seem kind of abstract. The 2nd part of the game you are off the ship and in a city called “Badushizd” where you’ll find a humorously-named inn. It went by pretty fast for me in contrast with the 1st part. Pretty cool game overall. Some technical issues and a few nags here and there. The pacing of the last part and ending of the game seemed appropriate.


*** GRUE ***
BY CHARLES MANGIN

 Short game. Cool concept of being able to play from the perspective of a grue from the Zork series, but there just isn’t much to it. I was not able to finish the game; I think perhaps I didn’t get a timing puzzle right or something. Glancing at the walkthrough, there’s not much to the ending either.


*** INEVITABLE ***
By Matthew Pfeiffer

 I start in a crappy apartment. Apparently I’m a mad scientist. The game calls itself a 1-room escape game. There is no walkthrough and I couldn’t figure out how to escape the apartment.


*** MOON BASE ***
By Andrew Brown

 A short, creepy web game. I don’t think I reached the best ending, but seeing the consequences of apparently bad choices as a result was satisfying. Web games that seem to just go around in circles to reach only 1 or at the most 2 endings always seem to fail to keep me engaged or care to replay the game again. I would give this game another play if I wasn’t in the middle of all of these entries at the moment.


*** QUEER IN PUBLIC: A BRIEF ESSAY ***
By Naomi Norbez

 This is more of an “interactive essay” than “interactive fiction”. It's not a game at all. I don’t identify myself as Christian or queer, (the 2 main elements being compared in this entry) so this really didn’t hit any nerve with me one way or the other. The conclusion is basically a “The Jesus I know is a cool dude that isn’t mean to people.” theme.


*** The Richard Mines ***
By Evan Wright

 A parser game in which you need to search through some old tunnels and make your escape. Short room descriptions. Short game for that matter. Fairly easy puzzles. Not a lot of story here, but not a lot to complain about either.


*** A Walk In The Park ***
By Extra Mayonaise

 In this parser game you play a punk wandering around a city. It had a couple of lines that made me chuckle, and the setting was nicely put together. However, I got stuck trying to follow the tutorial at the step where I should “say uhh”. Uhh…


*** Will Not Let Me Go ***
By Stephen Granade

 Another web game. Here you are an old man dealing with alzheimer’s. This is another one where I don’t feel like I have any real choice here but to just keep clicking links to keep the story chugging along. What makes up for it though was it actually was a good story. I think it could have been a bit shorter though and still got the same effect across.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

These Dreams

  Getting time to work on the DPRK game again lately has been nice. I've had to bug Roody yet again for assistance lately, but he's always happy to help with Hugo related issues.

 I've been focusing on the 2nd PC of the DPRK game over the past few months.. random stabs at the story and code. Taken many steps back when starting to code and realizing I don't even have a proper flow for the event written yet, but that's part of what makes creating games like this so fun; play-testing and adding things that are not implemented yet, testing them, and repeating the process. The third PC won't take too much longer finish up, but tying all three PCs together with decisions made by each, inventory changes, etc will take a while to clean up. The "alpha" test was released some time ago, and I plan on releasing the "beta" around November of the year..

 Not getting my old interactive dreaming Inform7 project properly updated with all the graphics window and other fancy screen effects extension stuff basically shit me out of IntroComp this year. I was a bit disappointed but will shoot for next year. This is worth revisiting..

 It's really neat that my friend Irfon told me about the "modern IF scene" around 2008-2009.  I'm still really thankful to be introduced a new world of "text games" I figured only existed in my own head and a very select few of others back then and before then. I've met some really cool people along the way both on the internet and off.

 I've also got ideas about creating some sort of dream share API or website lately..

Yukihiro Takahashi ("It's Gonna Work"): "I had a dream. You gave me a sign.. and put me on a new track."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring 2017

 Today I relaunched retrolab.servebeer.com to clean up old hacks I had used to get my Ultima Online server emulator chugging along. I'll be leaving that and my Quake II server down for a few months to come. If anything, for the purpose of just having 2 less things online that I have to worry about that I've barely had any time for lately. I'm trying to focus on working on the DPRK themed game, as well getting back to actually playing a few games such as Resident Evil 7 and my arcade games. Some good progress has already been made on the last third of Days in DPRK, but I slowed down considerably with the second third. I don't want the player to feel like any of the 3 slices of the game feel "rushed".

 The Guerilla War cabinet I previously talked about is now completely gone with exception to the marquee and bezel. The PCB and control panel were sold for enough money to break even for buying that cabinet and the Double Dragon cabinet. After cleaning up the Double Dragon cabinet with a lot of Lysol cleaner, magic erasers, and other means, it looks and smells a lot better than when I first picked it up. The monitor was removed from Guerilla War and installed it into the Double Dragon cabinet after swapping the wood panel connected to the frame and replacing the molex connector to the wires that were originally just grounded to the monitor frame to the isolated transformer inside the cabinet. The monitor that was originally in Double Dragon had severe burn of the game logo burned into it and had to go. I hope to do a tube-swap on it in the future. This setup is working well for playing Robotron 2084 and other games on a 19-in1 multi PCB. The Double Dragon PCB is still on the shelf for audio repairs.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Gutting Guerrilla War

 Last week a friend of mine who knows me as an "arcade guy" gave me a tip on a couple of cabinets that some people wanted to get rid of. The owner of the house the machines were in used to run his own business out of his house but had since had serious health issues. The state of the house had become pretty run-down and family members were in the process of clearing stuff out. The basement where the machines sat apparently had a leak or had been flooded at one point.

 Initially, I replied that I wasn't really interested in them because Guerrilla War looked like it was about to fall apart right there (despite the fact it magically still turned on and played!) and the other cabinet, a Double Dragon, wasn't of much interest to me as I'd probably not play it much.

 The next day it dawned on me.. if they only want 100-200$ for these, I could probably get that out of parts from the Guerrilla War alone. I also didn't realize that Double Dragon is a JAMMA-standard game with an 8-way joystick. That makes Double Dragon a great candidate to throw other game PCBs or even a multi-board into. Plus, it sounded like these people really wanted these machines out of there but didn't want to just give them away via a Craig's List ad or whatever. It's rare you see even a total piece of non-working junk sell at an arcade auction for less than 200$ anyway.

Picture texted to me of the game running in the basement of doom.


 So, the next day I rented an appliance dolly for 11$ and headed over to the residence with another friend willing to help for beer & pizza. Luckily, it was only 8 miles away. I preferred to take them one at a time so I could lay them down in the bed of my small truck. Moving them was not easy by any means. I've moved machines before, sometimes without even using a dolly.. but these were fragile and Guerrilla War was very heavy. Maybe because it had soaked up so much water (heh-heh)? The path from the leaky basement out to the yard where my truck was parked was covered in old wood, carpet padding, and other sorts of fun obstacles. After a lot of straining and a bruised arm, I got Guerrilla War home and onto the carport without it exploding into a hundred pieces.

The paintball splats on it give a bit of character!

 I don't consider this salvageable. The bottom of it had been so wet it was starting to separate.. as well as the top of it. Thankfully, things in the center and sides look like they stayed dry.

Front panel all busted up but control panel looks OK.

 At this point I have already taken out the marquee, but it was in good shape. The graphical bezel around the monitor was also in good shape.

With the plexiglass and bezels removed.

 This is the first time I have messed with a vertical-mounted monitor like this, so at first I tried to take the 4 screws out of the frame and pull the frame out. Nope. Stuck on something. Then realized "Oh duh, those are handles" in the wood around it. I put the frame screws back in, removed the 4 screws from the corner of the wood, and it came out very easy; a lot less scary and heavy than handling the 25 inch monitor in the Neo-Geo MVS2. I had already removed the wires to it from the PCB. I couldn't get into the back yet because it was locked and I didn't want to mess with drilling it out if I didn't have to.

Now I've just about got full access to everything.

 The monitor looked bright and colorful with the game playing before it was moved, just a bit of burn-in in the tube from the credits and score text. With that out of the way, I was able to open the back door lock easily from the inside and peer in. It was just as horrible as you would think, but honestly I'm surprised it wasn't worse.

Haha Oh, man.. yeah, I'll pass on even touching this.

 Good thing the main plastic circuit board is mounted half-way up the wall of the machine.

 
Nice and shiny PCB!








































 The monitor has a Wells Gardner chassis (score!) and mild burn-in on the tube from the score and credits text. This will make a good backup replacement 19 inch monitor.

Backside of monitor sitting on t-shirts to prevent scratches.

 After removing the control panel, few more wires, and the JAMMA connector, I'm done rescuing all the good stuff with this. Tomorrow the cabinet will be busted up into smaller pieces for disposal. Next up: a bit of Double Dragon cabinet restoration!